blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1


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Studies from Life
     after Lady Hawarden’s (1822-1865) photographs of her daughters

I keep a cabinet of dolls
nesting in shoebox cribs, a house
in miniature, wire chandelier.

Mother’s brush backed
with silver—a tarnished whale
on the dresser. My hands like hers

threading through hair.  
I might walk through the wall,
Clementina, while you powder

the mole on your clavicle.
You cherish that black slur.
Myself uncorsetted spilling through

the seams. You won’t tell.
I jam my dolls, my ministers,
back in their dusty beds.

Some evenings
we are never put down.
The world’s Girl strips us

to our slips. And forgets
to shut our eyes, leaves us
face down in the dark.

Mother’s coughing
from the chemicals—her throat latches
on air, a broken clasp—

as we devise another scene:
On Affliction Beauty waits. You’re A.
and I’m B. for the full exposure.

Take this night-blooming orchid
for a pelt, midnight’s smooth tail
as your only interlocutor.

The ghost of a hand as Mother
unscrews the lens cap. Daughters
of Collodion, chlorine sistered,

she would never usher us
into abstraction, flesh of her
flesh. See my earrings like spears

and beads black as the spider-
selves we swept from the house’s
bare corners? Sister,

let’s hide beneath this veil.  

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